Feeling pain in your head while doing pull ups? Experiencing a headache when you’re trying to build you back?
Pull ups are great because they don’t require any weights or even a gym. They can be done anywhere. They also use the entire back and help develop the forearms and arms. They also increase grip strength.
If you are unable to do them due to head pain, you are missing out on a great exercise. Let’s dive into why they may be causing you pain.
Why Do Pull Ups Hurt My Head?
When you are pushing yourself too hard, the muscles in the head, neck, and scalp require more blood circulation. This can result in exertional headaches or exercise-induced headaches. Poor form may also be a factor.
What Causes Headaches While Working Out?
Exerting yourself in the gym causes the muscles of the head, neck, and scalp to require more blood to circulate. There’s an increase in blood volume of the blood vessels that can lead to exertional headaches. They typically occur in high-impact activity or sports. Lifting weights is also a common cause. If you experience once while doing pull ups, you are most likely overtraining and should slow it down.
Take longer rest periods between sets to lower the intensity. Or don’t perform those last couple reps if you are exhausted.
Dehydration is one of the main reasons of headaches while in the gym. You are sweating out water and further dehydrating yourself. Additionally many people take pre-workouts or caffeine supplements while working out. Solution? Drink plenty of water before, after, and during your workout!
Extreme thirst, dark yellow urine, fatigue, and dizziness are all symptoms of dehydration. The best way to measure it is by the color of the urine. Drink enough water until your urine is a clear color before you commence your workout.
Hot weather is another cause of workout induced headaches. Luckily, most gyms have big fans to prevent this. If you’re working out outside during the summer or in your sweaty home gym, consider this. Invest in a fan or drink extra water if you are feeling pain in your head.
Incorrect breathing techniques can cause headache as your brain isn’t receiving adequate oxygen. Holding your breath while performing a pull up will increase inter cranial pressure, resulting in head pain. Exhale through your mouth when you pull yourself up and then inhale through your nose while lowering yourself.
How To Prevent Head Pain
Make sure you are staying hydrated during your workout. Always. Not only will it prevent a headache, but your muscles require water to function. If you frequently experience headaches during your workout, it may be a good idea to see a doctor. They can prescribe you an anti-inflammatory drug to treat them.
If the headache is more one-sided or located in the neck, it’s known as a cervicogenic headache. These are best treated by a physical therapist or personal trainer.
Make sure you have eaten before working out. Headache due to low blood sugar can occur if not.
There are stretches you can perform before you do your sets of pull ups to reduce head or neck pain.
The splenius capitis consists of several muscle fibers that insert into the skull and provide neck extension. By strengthening and stretching out these muscles, you can help keep a stable spine while performing pull ups.
Sit with your chest up while looking straight ahead. Move your chin back into your neck while keeping your head upright and not looking up or down. Hold your chin back with one hand, while raising the other up and pulling your head forward, gently.
You can also perform neck rotation and retraction to stretch it out. For neck rotation, start with your head in a neutral position and then extend your neck upwards. While keep your mouth closed, place your left hand on your left cheek. Push your cheek as you turn your head to one side and you should feel a stretch. Hold the positions for roughly 15 seconds and then do the other side.
For a neck retraction, sit in a chair or on a soft surface and engage your core. Drop your chin and use your neck muscles to pull your head straight back while maintaining a neutral position. Hold this position briefly and repeat a few times.
How To Properly Perform The Pull Up
Proper pull up form will not only save against head pain, but also save you from any other type of injury.
Grip the pull up bar at about shoulder width with palms facing forward and hang until your arms are straight. This type of grip incorporates your lats while still giving your elbows plenty of room to move. You want a neutral spine which can be achieved by squeezing the pelvic muscles and retracting the shoulder blades back. This position should be maintained throughout the exercise in order to keep your feet hanging straight down.
Position your legs together and slightly straight out in front of you. This will engage your calves and allow you to generate force through the bar. Make sure your abs and legs are flexed.
Squeeze through your ring and pinky finger when pulling yourself up. This helps squeeze your lats. Think about pulling the bar towards your body rather than lifting yourself up. Make sure your chest stays up and out. Pull up so that the bar almost touches your chest and your chin come slightly above the bar for full range of motion.
It’s very important to maintain proper neck position to provide head or neck pain. They should be kept in a neutral position through the movement. Keep them in line with the spine, you should never be looking around or turning your head. Also, make sure not to bend or tilt your head forward.
Pull Up Alternatives
Looking for some pull up alternatives that still work the same muscles and don’t require a pull up bar?
Body weight rows are great with helping you increase your pull ups, as the same muscles are worked. They’re also very versatile. You can use a door, towel, or resistance band. Even a sturdy bench or table can work. This makes them a lot easier to perform than pull ups also.
If you’re using something sturdy like a table, lie underneath it and grip the edges with your fingertips. Make sure you can ensure a firm grip and can hold yourself up without falling. Leave your body diagonal so that your ankles are touching the ground. Pull yourself up while squeezing your back until your chest touches the table or object, and then slowly return to the starting position. This exercise will keep your back muscles under constant tension.
Here’s what the exercise would look like when done with bands or a towel. Feel free to try it with both hands at a time or one, whatever feels better for you.